New York Times Editors: "Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, [Edward] Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community." ...
... Guardian Editors: "We hope that calm heads within the present administration are working on a strategy to allow Mr Snowden to return to the US with dignity, and the president to use his executive powers to treat him humanely and in a manner that would be a shining example about the value of whistleblowers and of free speech itself." CW: The Guardian's editors seem to suggest President Obama should pardon Snowden.
CW: E. J. Dionne feels a need to explain to moderates why a resurgence of progressive populism is a good thing. Frankly, I don't see a "resurgence." Elizabeth Warren, for instance, isn't "replacing" Republican Scott Brown. She retook Ted Kennedy's seat after a short, anomalous hiatus, and Kennedy was at least as progressive as Warren. And if "moderates" can't figure out why increasing Social Security benefits beats privatizing the program, then they aren't moderates.
Michael Shear & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio has signaled he may embrace a series of limited changes to the nation’s immigration laws in the coming months.... Aides to Mr. Boehner said this week that he was committed to what he calls 'step by step' moves to revise immigration laws, which they have declined to specify. " CW: Whoopdeedoo. This is what makes the top headline in the Times?
Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "In temporarily blocking enforcement of the part of opened a second front in to the provision. The initial front opened in November, when the justices agreed to hear a pair of cases from for-profit companies challenging that provision." ... challenges’s that requires many employers to provide health insurance coverage for birth control or face penalties, Justice on Tuesday
We defer to the Department of Justice on litigation matters, but remain confident that our final rules strike the balance of providing women with free contraceptive coverage while preventing non-profit religious employers with religious objections to contraceptive coverage from having to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for such coverage. -- Anonymous White House Official
... Sandhya Somashekhar, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration faced a fresh challenge to its health-care law just as many of its key provisions took effect Wednesday, after an 11th-hour Supreme Court ruling temporarily allowed some Catholic groups not to cover birth control in their employee health plans.... The ruling applied not only to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a nonprofit group that provides services to low-income elderly people, but also to more than 200 other faith-based groups that use insurance provided by the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, which adheres to Catholic principles. Most nonprofit groups that challenged the mandate already had received temporary reprieves." ...
... Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "According to the Department of Health and Human Services, about six million people signed up for Obamacare’s coverage expansion so far. It’s not yet clear exactly how many of those people gained new insurance on January 1; some of them may not have paid their first premium yet, and ongoing technical problems with the state marketplaces may delay some people’s coverage from kicking in immediately. Regardless of the official enrollment numbers, however, New Years Eve marked an important milestone for the health insurance industry."
I’m sure you know, the bishop has total control. -- Anonymous Doctor, describing how medical decisions are made at Roman Catholic hospitals ...
... Lori Freedman in the New Republic on medical "mistakes" directed by Catholic doctrine: "The role that bishops play in healthcare is not a narrow, niche issue. Today in the U.S., one out of six hospital patients are treated in a Catholic facility; four of the 10 largest health systems are Catholic. In many places, the Catholic hospital is the only option for care. While some argue that religious groups should be entitled to follow their own doctrine in their own hospitals, this argument is based on the antiquated notion of faith-based care. Catholic hospitals employ and treat people of all faiths with federal dollars...." Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link. Also, see today's Comments.
Mario Trujillo of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told The Associated Press in an interview that the Senate will vote Monday on a three-month extension of federal unemployment benefits. Calling the House a 'black hole of legislation,' he offered no prediction on whether the lower chamber would take up the extension as well."
Dan Vergano of the National Geographic: "A decline in ocean cloud cover projected in climate models points to more than 5.6°F (3°C) of global warming coming in this century, on the high end of past global warming estimates, warn climate scientists in a new study."
Lyle Denniston, in a National Constitution Center opinion piece: "The campaign to win marriage rights for same-sex couples that began somewhat hesitantly in Hawaii more than twenty years ago burst forth in 2013 into something close to a constitutional revolution. The year 2014 very likely will take the issue back to the Supreme Court even as efforts continue to advance the campaign at the state level."
Steve Coll of the New Yorker discusses a new memoir by John Rizzo, a CIA lawyer for more than three decades. Rizzo counters George W. Bush's claim that he was the "decider" on harsh interrogation techniques.
Gail Collins publishes her year-end quiz -- with answers.
Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "Bill de Blasio, whose fiery populism propelled his rise from obscure neighborhood official to the 109th mayor of New York, was sworn into office on Wednesday, pledging that his ambition for a more humane and equal metropolis would remain undimmed." The Times has an interactive page, with video, analyzing de Blasio's inaugural address.
Bryce Covert of Think Progress: "With the new year came the implementation of a new bill: Rhode Island’s paid family leave legislation, passed in July, is now in effect. That means that three states have paid family leave programs in place, as Rhode Island joins California, whose law went into effect in 2004, and New Jersey, which started its program in 2009."
Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Daniel K. Inouye, the most revered and powerful figure in Hawaii political history, had a deathbed wish: that Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) would appoint his protegee, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, to replace him in the Senate. But Abercrombie upended this island state’s political order by tapping the younger Brian Schatz, then the lieutenant governor. Now, a year after Inouye’s death, the former senator’s ghost lingers large over a bitter feud that is dividing Democrats along ethnic and generational lines.... With the outspoken support of Inouye’s widow, Hanabusa is giving up her House seat to challenge Schatz in the 2014 primary."